(Pocket-lint) - It's been a bit of a rough ride for Huawei in European markets since its phones - such as the Mate 30 Pro and P40 Pro - have been unable to release with Google Services. However, that has no direct impact on its Windows laptop business - although Microsoft did remove Huawei's laptop ranges from its Store in 2019 - with the third-generation MateBook X Pro arriving with updated 10th Gen Intel Core i internals.
To look at the MateBook X Pro certainly has some Apple-like cues - no surprise given its name, design and clear targeting of the MacBook Pro - but in many respects it goes one better than Apple's current Pro effort thanks to minimal bezel, touchscreen control, and Nvidia discrete graphics in a body of this size (the MacBook Pro only uses Intel Iris in the 13-inch configuration - you'd need the 16-inch behemoth to pull in AMD Radeon).
All of which adds up to one rather fine Windows laptop, even without the design having evolved at all since its inception. Thing is, you might struggle to find one to buy. But if you can pick one up, here's the good, the bad and the unusual you can expect.
- Measures: 14.6mm at thickest; Weighs: 1.3kgs
- Finish: Metal unibody design in 'Space Grey'
- 2x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x 3.5mm jack
- Fingerprint-ready power button
If you've seen one MateBook X Pro then, well, you've seen them all. The original was released in 2018 and the design hasn't changed one bit in the two iterations since. That's how other makers do it (yes, Apple), so it looks as though Huawei is taking inspiration from the best known, eh?
That said, the MateBook X Pro is really well designed. There's little we would change, except for the pop-up camera being built into the F7 key. It's so low down that it will take your best double chin perspective and emphasise it to whole new levels. It's a considered implementation - the idea of hiding the camera rather than cramming it into the screen for the sake of additional bezel - but it just doesn't really work.
What does work is everything else. Certain subtleties make using the MateBook X just that much better than its competition, such as the easy-to-open lid that doesn't require excessive tension to prise it open. The way the power button is integrated into the fingerprint scanner. How the bezel is approaching class-leading proportions, making this a screen dominant design.
With a 14.6mm thickness at its widest point, the MateBook X Pro is just the right size to squeeze in multiple ports, without being too chunky overall. This means there's one full-size USB slot, along with two other USB-C ports (one of these is Thunderbolt 3 speed compatible; both can be used to charge the laptop - although our device only came with an EU plug, so we had to fish out another to get it to work in the UK).
Keyboard & Trackpad
- Full-size backlit keyboard
- Hidden camera (F7 key)
- 'Spill-proof' design
- Giant trackpad
The MateBook X Pro's full-size keyboard feels spot-on to the fingers, with enough clack to the keys, without the need for them to travel excessively. There's none of this "butterfly hinge" business - something Apple has finally fixed in its 2020 MacBook - meaning the keys actually move properly.
The tinted backlight looks smart, without leaking too much, unlike some competitors. But it's the spill-proof finish - which ought to save you from any drink knock-over disasters - that adds yet another string to Huawei's bow.
The trackpad, as you can see from our pictures, is huge in scale. It's topped with a smooth finish that sees fingers glide over it with ease. The majority of the pad acts as a left click; towards the bottom right corner, there's a right-click equivalent, just enough to avoid accidental presses. It feels great in use.
- 13.9-inch 'FullView Notebook' display, 3K resolution (3000 x 2000)
- 178° viewing angle, 450-nit brightness, 1500:1 contrast ratio
- 91% screen-to-footprint ratio; just 4.4mm side bezel
- 10-point touchscreen control
The most impressive thing about the MateBook X Pro is its screen. It's a panel with minimal bezel - that's why it's called "FullView", whether you like the marketing talk or not - leaving the screen itself to dominate 91 per cent of the total footprint.
Indeed, the side bezel is just 4.4mm - which is still smaller than you'll find on the Dell XPS 13 (which has 4.6mm in its 2020 guise). Shows that Huawei was a couple of years ahead of the game, if Dell is playing catch-up.
As we touched upon, having such trim bezel - it's larger at the top and much more significant at the bottom - has meant there's no room to hide a camera. We get why it's been hidden from view under the F7 key, but we still await the day a behind-screen solution will be possible, without affecting the bezel design.
Technically speaking the MateBook X Pro's screen is as bright and resolute to take on the best of them. There are as many pixels crammed in here as you'll find in a Microsoft Surface Book 2.
The Huawei's brightness, at 450-nits, isn't too far away from Lenovo's Dolby Vision ThinkPad X1 laptop either. But the typical auto-brightness adjustment of the X Pro is overzealous the say the least, often seeing the screen far darker than it should be, leaving reflections from the overly shiny surface all too prominent.
We'd have hoped the surface covering would have been made a little less reflective in this update model, but that's notso. It's not unbearable by any means - many laptops are like this - but when you're looking for perfection, it's one of those small tweaks that could be made.
Although we've largely avoided using touchscreen, in order to stop adding smeary marks to the screen, there's still that option. That's something Apple continues to not offer. And in a Windows guise the ability to touch works rather well for certain tasks.
Performance & Battery Life
- Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor (10510U - 1.8GHz quad core, Turbo to 4.9GHz)
- i5-10210U option also available (1.6GHz quad core, Turbo to 4.2GHz)
- All models feature Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics, 2GB RAM
- Up to 1TBGB SSD storage (NVMe PCIe)
- 56Wh battery; USB fast-charge
Huawei's power aims are clear: under the hood is an 10th Gen Intel Core i processor (i5 and i7 options are available) and 16GB RAM, plus an Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics card (in all except the most entry of the line-up). We have the Core i7 model on review here.
With that available power, the MateBook X Pro handles things very well indeed. With Photoshop installed we've been able to churn through edits no problem at all, faster than we can on our staple MacBook Air.
The X Pro is quiet in operation, too, which we don't always expect from an i7 machine. There's no worry of excess fan noise or whistle here. And we've not encountered instances of overheating either.
The one area we were worried that MateBook X Pro would fall down was in the battery life department. But that's not been a particular problem - depending on what you're using the machine to do.
With the screen brightness set to 75 per cent, volume to 50 per cent and performance set to "Better" (not "Best"), we've been able to stream a 1440p YouTube clip non-stop for just under 10 hours straight (the things we go through to test laptops, eh?). That's actually a better innings than the same test on the two-year-old model from 2018.
However, that 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor has its ups and downs, i.e. it's great you can call on the power, but do so and the battery life can crumple. Let's face it, that's typical - but if you want to do more intensive tasks on the go then a couple of hours' of performance might not be enough.
Although we're not going anywhere at the moment we've been functioning from our at-home office for this review, with the MateBook Pro X unplugged, and the mix of Slack, Word, Excel, Mail, Photoshop/Bridge, has seen us land over seven hours of use.
There's also USB fast-charging available for rapid top-ups... well, theoretically, but as the cable provided for our review unit is an EU plug socket, we've had to find an alternative stand-in for our UK-based review.
As for sound quality, there's some other clever stuff going on behind the scenes: the quad speaker setup (two for treble, two for lower-end) are mounted in a double suspension system to isolate them from the motherboard and chassis for a supposedly cleaner sound. Left-right separation is good, but we find the treble speakers a little over "fizzly" in their delivery, so the sound isn't the greatest you'll hear. But this is a slim laptop, so we're not exactly surprised.
With a stunning screen, heaps of power and ports, a great-looking finish, and decent battery life considering the specification, the MateBook X Pro is an all-round success.
In many ways, it's the Windows laptop equivalent of the Apple MacBook Pro. And let's face it: that's exactly what this laptop wants to be. In some areas, thanks to touchscreen controls and a better keyboard, it's arguably better.
Apple MacBook Pro (2019)
Ok, so it's not Windows, but this is the machine that the Huawei so clearly wants to be. No, you don't get touchscreen, you don't even get as much power here, and it'll cost more. But if you're into the Apple way of working, i.e. Mac OS, then it's an obvious choice.
Huawei MateBook X Pro (2018)
It's not got the latest Intel processor on board, but you can save a couple of hundred notes, bag the same design and display, and know you'll be able to find one to get delivered in the first instance.